We have been playing and evaluating Prey (2017) on PC since it was released last Tuesday. We have played the game for well over 20 hours, and we have tested its performance with the very latest AMD and NVIDIA drivers comparing the performance of 17 video cards. Although we have not completed the single player campaign, we will give our impressions of the game, so far. Prey is a reimagining of the original 2006 Prey and a spiritual successor to System Shock developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. This new game has nothing in common with the original shooter game except in name only. Playing as either fraternal twin, Morgan Yu, on the alien-overrun space station Talos 1, you are mankind’s only hope, wielding alien powers, abilities and weapons.
With 24 human upgrades and 20 unique alien powers to choose from an upgrade tree, no two Morgans will be the same, and no two players will have identical experiences in Prey. Along with the human abilities, players have access to three Typhon-based ability trees. We chose a build mostly featuring security weapons and came to regret it somewhat.
Players must also choose carefully as there is no re-spec and some builds are more effective than others. The game also gets significantly harder as the player progresses, and ammo, psi power boosts, and med kits are always in short supply. The player will also have to craft supplies and med kits from raw materials using a recycling system.
The player will take the role of either twin, Morgan, a younger sibling to the CEO of TranStar, Alex Yu, who is responsible for most of what is happening on Talos I. It’s a complex well-written story, and the relationship between the siblings is explored as the game unfolds.
The game focuses on simulations and in the beginning, Yu is stuck in a “Groundhog Day” type of loop with memories erased. Soon things go horribly wrong and an alien infestation begins to take control of Talos I. It becomes apparent that Yu is the only hope with his/her unique bio-enhanced abilities.
The game follows with the somewhat “cartoony” retro style visuals of BioShock, and it appears to use an earlier version of the CryEngine that is focused more on performance than on cutting-edge graphics which means that a GTX 1050 Ti will be able to play on Very High (maxed) settings at 1920×1080 at close to 60 FPS. The entire game is deeply atmospheric that focuses on creating a sense of dread and loneliness much like in System Shock 2. Audio is very good and it supports the atmosphere and builds tension for the player.
The story is well-written and it is set in an alternate future where Kennedy survived his assassination attempt and mankind has moved into space, becoming more advanced by studying first contact with the Typhon alien species and learning to use genetic enhancements. The characters you have to interact with are generally interesting and there are numerous plot twists. As you interact with the crew, the player will get numerous requests and it is natural to care about what is happening to them.
The basic enemies, the mimics, are very well done. They are Typhon enemies that can take the shape of anything and as the player approaches they will suddenly attack. Even one mimic can be fatal to the unsuspecting player and often there are multiple enemies tossed at the player simultaneously. Unfortunately, the more advanced enemy NPCs such as the Weaver (below) are not quite as interesting as the mimics but they are just much harder to destroy, and ultimately there is not a lot of variety in the alien species. As the player progresses, they will have to also combat human enemies and their laser-wielding robotic allies in increasing numbers.
The settings of Talos I are not varied. Either you are inside or outside of the space station and one section looks rather similar to another with few exceptions. Outside, you have to contend with a lack of gravity and your suit propulsion system is quite frustrating to use at first. Although the story is well-written high-quality science fiction, there are still some things that stand out as impossible – you can still hear in the vacuum of space, and you cannot continue to accelerate using your suit thruster as some physical laws appear to be set aside for the gameplay. And you will visit the same areas over and over as you will do a lot of back-tracking as you realize that exploration and finding items and clues are the keys to your survival. There is reasonable variety to the weapons if you choose to engage the enemy directly – or you can go for a stealth build to sneak past most of the enemies without engaging them at all.
The player also has a choice whether to use powerful psionic alien powers against them or not. As the player encounters new varieties of the Typhons, they must use an analysis tool to find the alien’s weakness, and you can even change your own DNA to gain new alien powers using the Neuromod tool. Using these psi power slows down time, allowing players to target their enemies accurately.
Unfortunately, if you choose to use alien powers your biology changes and the stations’ defense turrets will begin to target you along with a very powerful NPC, the Nightmare, that is on a countdown timer as it hunts you relentlessly. The Nightmare is very difficult to kill and it is often better to run and hide until it gives up chasing you.
One of the stand-out weapons is the Gloo Cannon. It can help sticky and stop enemy NPCs by holding them in place temporarily, or it can stick to anything but glass to allow the player to climb to areas that would otherwise be completely inaccessible – as in the image below. Note the gobs of white Gloo that have allowed the player to climb to the shuttle.The level of frustration that Prey can bring a player is quite high. Several of the main objectives are not spelled out very well, and some objectives are almost impossibly difficult to find. For example, one of the main quest lines requires that you find a key card that is on a dead crew person’s body. You are given a general area to search, but only after putting out a roaring fire can you even see the well-hidden body. Also, the objective markers tend to disappear as you near them leaving you to search an entire area which can be especially difficult under enemy fire. And as you progress, the game becomes more difficult and it simultaneously gets harder to find ammo and psi reloads.
You will never run out of things to do if you are a completionist. Prey offers dozens of ways to approach an objective, and it would be easy to sink well over 30 hours into the game on the first playthrough. We will definitely give a recommendation to this gem of a game, and now we want to see how it performs on 17 video cards with the latest drivers:
- GTX 1080 Ti 11GB
- GTX 1080 8GB
- GTX 1070 8GB
- GTX 1060 6GB – EVGA SC
- GTX 1060 3GB
- GTX 1050 Ti 4GB
- GTX 980 Ti 6GB
- GTX 980 4GB
- GTX 970 4GB
- GTX 780 Ti 3GB
- Fury X 4GB
- RX 480 8GB at RX 580 clocks
- RX 570 4GB – Red Devil overclocked version
- RX 460 4GB
- R9 290X 4GB
- RX 280X 3GB
- RX 270X 2GB
You have to experience Prey for yourself as a player to appreciate it much as you do a movie or a play, and absolutely not from viewing clips on a tablet, nor from watching Youtube gameplay videos. The introduction is a well-disguised and seamless tutorial that hooks you immediately into the game and draws you into the world by its clever writing,
Although the main story evidently has multiple endings that answers a lot of questions and provides a coherent backstory, it leaves other questions unanswered for future downloadable content, and perhaps for Prey to continue the story in future installments.
The Prey gameplay is good. The computer controlled AI enemy NPCs are adjusted by the game difficulty levels, and even on the easy difficulty, they are quite challenging, especially as the conclusion of the games nears.
Saves and difficulty
There are 33 game saves which may be deleted to make room for newer saves along with a “quick save” and “quick load” feature which works perfectly for fighting difficult enemies and for the few “platforming” sections.
Prey has some definite replayability. Mostly a player will want to explore and find everything the first playthrough which may require 30 or more hours. You can start over as your twin at a higher difficulty and you can also try making a couple of crucial decisions differently. You can also choose to treat the surviving members of the station crew well – or badly – and it will have an effect on the ending.
Bugs, Graphics and Performance
There appear to be very few bugs that affect the game performance, and even during more than 20 hours of play we only experienced only one lock-up which required us to restart the game. It is important to remember to save at regular intervals so as to not lose progress.
The implementation of DX11 in Prey is good but not cutting-edge graphics, and it appears to be very reasonably well optimized.
We played Prey at the default highest settings (Very High). We mostly played at 3440×1440 or at 3840×2160 at default Ultra settings using a GTX 1080 Ti with excellent performance results, and then replayed much of it with 16 other video cards using our Core i7-6700K at 4.0GHz where all 4 cores turbo to 4.6GHz, an ASRock Z7170 motherboard and 16GB of Kingston HyperX DDR4 at 3333MHz. The repeatable Fraps benchmark that we created on was about 10% more demanding than the game’s average framerate, but about 10% less demanding than the toughest boss fights which slowed framerates the most.
On the next page, we will introduce static image quality screenshots to compare some the main settings, and later we will give performance results using the default Very High settings.
Let’s check out the Settings that we used as well as their impact on Image Quality (IQ).